Be salt and light to the world!

Al Cariño, OMI
Editor: Mindanao Cross
Reproduced with Permission

Fifth Sunday in Ordinary Times

"Your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God," says St. Paul (1 Cor. 2:15). "Human wisdom" tells us that wealth, power and fame are all that matter in life. We must have one or all of these — by hook or by crook — if we do not want to be considered failures. Thus too many people have made them their gods before whose altar they sacrifice everything — values, morality, principles. Honesty, fairness, industry, sharing with others, purity, love, etc. — as they do not bring anyone anywhere.

At the start of His ministry, Matthew portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of Isaiah's prophecy, namely, that He is "the great light" that will disperse the shadow of death, of sin, that has enveloped the world. Now Jesus is sharing this task to His disciples: "You are the salt of the earth" and "You are the light of the world" (Mt. 5:13–16). Coming as it does immediately after the Beatitudes which ultimately is the summary of Christian doctrine, Jesus now tells His disciples what they are to be and do in the world so that they can help shape it according to God's plan — doing what salt and light do to things.

Salt and light have one thing in common: they are not appreciated in themselves. They become valuable only when used according to their nature: salt to make our food tasty and light to allow us to see our surroundings. As salt and light, we, the followers of Christ, have to be in and mix with the world and give meaning to and influence what happens to and in it through our good deeds.

How can we be salt to the world? Just as salt makes food tasty when it completely but unobtrusively penetrates and flavors our food, so do we when our faith penetrates and influences everything we do: we are good sports when we play, we tell the truth even when doing so would bring us trouble, we work and deal with others honestly, we are peacemakers when conflict arises, we work for the elimination of unjust structures in institutions and society, etc.

Aside from giving flavor to food, salt also prevents it from rotting, i.e., it is a preservative. Is it not a fact that the honesty and industry of our co–workers rubs on us? When we see them work hard and honestly, we find it embarrassing to loaf around or do under the table deals. Or when we have eaten something delicious, we often ask the cook how it was prepared and what ingredients were used. In the same manner, others seeing us live our Christian principles may be led to ask at least within themselves, "What is it that makes him act that way? For example, why did he tell the truth when lying could have given him a `safe' way out?" In many ways, our good deeds may have preserved others from doing what is rotten and corrupt. We have become salt to them.

How are we to become light to the world?

Sometime ago, a certain man, affectionately called Mang Pat, was featured in a national daily. Retired and already 70, he volunteered to direct traffic in a busy intersection in Manila. Wearing a white short sleeved shirt and khaki pants, he was at his post every day, rain or shine and despite the noise and pollution. Seeing him at his post, commuters were assured of order amid the daily traffic chaos. They admired him for his self–sacrifice and dedication to his work. Mang Pat, in his own simple way, had become a light to others.

As Jesus Himself said, people do not "light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house." In effect, we are either a light to others or we block the light. When we are the source of gossip or are dishonest in our work and dealings with others, when all kinds of dirty words come out of our mouths at the slightest provocation, when we turn a blind eye to a person in need, then we have blocked the light. In fact, we become a contradiction in the eyes of others. If to be a Christian is to be like that — unchristian in our attitude and behavior — then goodbye to Christianity.

On the other hand, when we are honest, forgiving, humble and generous, we become a light to others. When others see us just and fair in our dealings with others, caring in our relationship with others, happy with our family and in our home life — then they may also aspire to become like us. We have then become a light for others to follow.

Finally, as we become salt and light to others, let us do so for the reason Jesus gives us: "Your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly Father." Just as the moon only reflects the light of the sun, the good works we do should not only reflect but also point to the Source of all goodness — God Himself. Then seeing our good works, others may glorify the heavenly Father, too.